MD Coronavirus: Governor Orders Nonessential Businesses To Close

This article originally appeared on the Annapolis Patch

ANNAPOLIS, MD — To prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan is ordering nonessential businesses to close. The state is also offering relief for small businesses and setting up hospital and testing facilities for the virus as it fights what Hogan described as two battles.

There were 288 cases of the virus in Maryland as of 10 a.m. Monday, according to the state health department. Cases have been reported in 21 of the state's 24 jurisdictions. The only areas that have not had positive results for COVID-19 are Allegeny, Dorchester and Kent counties, the Maryland Department of Health reports.

There are 635 cases in the capital region of Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, Hogan said Monday morning.

"In a continuing effort to protect the health and safety of all Marylanders," Hogan said, "this morning, I have enacted an executive order which closes all nonessential businesses, organizations, establishments and facilities in Maryland." The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Monday.

"Many businesses are still open," Hogan said, to ensure the supply chain is still intact. Businesses that will remain open meet federal guidelines issued Thursday for critical infrastructure.

See Also: Which MD Businesses Are Essential, Nonessential During Coronavirus Outbreak?

Under federal guidelines, critical sectors include health care, food, public safety, government operations, defense and industrial based sectors, transportation, critical manufacturing and public works. Restaurants and bars will remain closed for dine-in customers but may remain open for carryout and delivery. See the guidance from Maryland for businesses.

“Let me be clear: We are not issuing or ordering a shelter-in-place directive or forcing people to stay home,” Hogan said at a news conference Monday morning. "However, we are telling all Marylanders to follow all of the directives we've already issued and to follow state law against crowds of more than 10 people. And we are telling you unless you have an essential reason to leave your house, then you should stay in your homes."

He called the action of closing nonessential businesses "absolutely necessary" to protect the lives of thousands of Marylanders.

"This is an exceptionally challenging time for Marylanders and for all Americans," Hogan said, including those out of work. "None of us really know how bad it's going to get or how long it's going to last."

Everyone in the state must "aggressively and simultaneously" fight two battles, he said.

"While we are fighting this unprecedented worldwide pandemic, at the same time we're also facing another huge battle against the potential of tremendous economic harm," Hogan said.

"Both of these battles are going to take all of us at the federal, state and local levels and the private sector rising to this challenge and working together," Hogan said.

"The states continue to need more assistance and more action," Hogan said, stating he would be on a conference call Monday with President Donald Trump asking for additional aid. He added the state would not wait, however, and was taking its own measures to provide relief.

Business Assistance

Maryland will launch a $175 million program through the Maryland Department of Commerce and Maryland Department of Labor to help small businesses "get through this difficult period," Hogan said.

"If you've been laid off, you can immediately file a claim by phone, by email or by submitting an application online," Hogan said. "Unlike other states, Maryland has no waiting period whatsoever."

Within two days, the labor secretary said people will receive a response.

In addition to providing help for laid-off workers, the state is offering funding so businesses can retain their employees.

Relief funds and a grant program will be made available for small businesses, and $5 million will be directed toward those in Maryland manufacturing supplies such as face masks and ventilators to address the shortage of medical products that are needed to fight the new coronavirus.

"We will have your backs in the weeks ahead," Hogan said to the businesses in Maryland, "and do everything we can to help you get back on your feet."

See the Maryland Business Express website for more information.

"We don't want our businesses to die,” Hogan said, “but we also don’t want to lose the lives of so many people" due to the new coronavirus.

Hospital Plans

There are 900 hospital beds available, and 1,400 more will be made available by early April, Hogan said, toward his goal of increasing the state's capacity by 6,000 beds.

Several new medical facilities and programs are in progress:

  • A field hospital will be set up at the Baltimore Convention Center, and an alternate care site will be established at the nearby Hilton. The National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers will partner on the development of these two sites, which will operate through a joint partnership between the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins. "At my direction, FEMA will be delivering 250 hospital bed packages and everything associated with them in the coming days," Hogan said.

  • The state has also worked to reopen the closed hospital in Laurel, with 135 hospital beds opening "in short order," Hogan said.

  • Prince George's County is establishing a pilot program to allow drive-up coronavirus testing in FedEx Field in Landover.

  • Five vehicle emissions inspections centers are ready to open as drive-through testing centers "as soon as the necessary testing kits and protective equipment become available," Hogan said.

Current State Of Coronavirus In Maryland

One week ago — on March 16 — there were 37 cases of the coronavirus in Maryland. That means 251 people tested positive for the illness in the past week.

Hogan declared a state of emergency March 5, the day the first cases of new coronavirus were confirmed in the state. The first three to test positive have fully recovered from the coronavirus, according to the health officer for Montgomery County, where they live. All had gone on an Egyptian cruise on the Nile River.

Three people in Maryland have died from the new coronavirus in the past week: a woman in her 40s in Montgomery County and two men in their 60s, one from Baltimore County and the other from Prince George's County. All three had underlying health conditions, according to authorities.

For updates on the coronavirus in Maryland, get Patch news alerts.

Maryland's first case of community transmission — meaning the person who got the virus did not contract it through travel or a known source — was confirmed March 11. The next day, officials ordered public schools closed from March 16 through March 27.

Here are measures Maryland has taken to reduce the spread of the virus in the community:

In an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus and stop large groups from gathering, the governor ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms across the state, effective at 5 p.m. March 16, until further notice during the state of emergency, with drive-thru, carryout and food delivery service allowed to continue at restaurants. On March 15, he ordered Maryland's five casinos and the state's racetracks to close at midnight to stem the coronavirus spread. The casinos and racetracks will remain closed until further notice.

Hogan announced additional measures Thursday to force people to stay in their homes and prevent the spread of the virus, including restricting those allowed in the BWI terminal and on public transportation, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people and shuttering enclosed malls and entertainment venues.

"[W]e urge you to avoid crowds at all costs," Hogan said in a statement Friday, alerting residents there were ways to stay safe. "Avoid all playgrounds, pavilions and anywhere that groups of more than 10 people may congregate. Please do not take this guidance lightly."

The governor also had an order for people who are returning from spring break.

"We are asking all returning spring break travelers to self-quarantine for the next 14 days, and to avoid people over the age of 60," Hogan said. "Even though students are not returning to campus, this should not in any way be treated as an extension of your spring break. If you ignore this recommendation, you are endangering yourself and the health of others."

What Is The New Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that can lead to fever, cough or shortness of breath. Most people who are infected with coronavirus will experience mild or no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More severe complications include pneumonia, organ failure and death, the CDC reports.
The CDC advises doing the following to stop the spread of the virus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If this is not available, use hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

  • Keep 6 feet of space between people.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

The CDC has put together a coronavirus disease situation summary for more about the illness.

For more information, visit the Maryland Department of Health's coronavirus page.